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Impossibility : The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits - John D. Barrow


The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits

Paperback Published: 25th March 1999
ISBN: 9780099772118
Number Of Pages: 304

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What can we never do? The end of each century leads to a stocktaking of human achievement and our expectations about the future. This new book by John D. Barrow looks at what limits there might be to human discovery, and what we might find, ultimately, to be unknowable, undoable, or unthinkable. Science is a big success story, but where will it end? And indeed, will it end? Weaving together a tapestry of surprises, Barrow explores the frontiers of knowledge. We find that the notion of 'impossibilty' has played a striking role in our thinking. Surrealism, impossible figures, time travel, paradoxes of logic and perspective, theological speculations about Beings for whom nothing is impossible - all stimulate us to contemplate something more than what is. This is no ordinary look at the limits of science. Using simple explanations, it shows the reader that impossibility is a deep and powerful notion; that any Universe complex enough to contain conscious beings will contain limits on what those beings can know about their Universe; that what we cannot know defines reality as surely as what we can know.

Industry Reviews

"Barrow conducts a tour of many of the most interesting topics in recent popular science, giving most of them a new twist in the telling... Trying to improve our understanding of just what is possible, and what is not, seems a vital part of the enterprise our kind of consciousness has called science" * Financial Times * "[An] illuminating, well-written account... One can only wonder how Barrow can possibly make all these [concepts] fit together into a coherent story about the limits to science. Well, contrary to all expectations, he does make them fit, and in only 250 pages! So for about as good an account as youre going to get of where science stops, read this book" * Nature * "Delightful and fascinating... Impossibility is a thoughtful, careful, and insightful book that is presented in a skillfully woven narrative, guiding the reader gently through the thicket of logic, physics, and mathematics... If you are fascinated by the limits of knowledge, you will be richly rewarded by this book" * New Scientist *

The art of the impossiblep. 1
The power of negative thinkingp. 1
Of faces and gamesp. 3
Those for whom all things are possiblep. 7
Paradoxp. 12
Visual paradoxp. 13
Linguistic paradoxp. 19
Limits to certaintyp. 21
A cosmic speed limitp. 24
Summaryp. 26
The hope of progressp. 27
Over the rainbowp. 27
The voyage to Polynesia via Telegraph Avenuep. 31
Progress and prejudicep. 37
The big idea of unlimited knowledgep. 41
Negativismp. 45
Some nineteenth-century ideas of the impossiblep. 48
Summaryp. 55
Back to the futurep. 57
What do we mean by the limits of science?p. 47
Possible futuresp. 58
Higgledy-piggledyologyp. 65
Selective and absolute limitsp. 68
Will we be builders or surgeons?p. 70
The futures marketp. 72
How many discoveries are there still to be made?p. 83
Summaryp. 84
Being humanp. 85
What are minds for?p. 85
Counting on wordsp. 91
Modern art and the death of a culturep. 95
Complexity matching: climbing Mount Improbablep. 96
Intractabilityp. 100
The frontier spiritp. 107
The end of diversityp. 109
Does science always bring about its own demise?p. 111
Death and the death of sciencep. 113
The psychology of limitsp. 114
Summaryp. 116
Technological limitsp. 118
Is the Universe economically viable?p. 118
Why we are where we arep. 120
Some consequences of sizep. 122
The forces of Naturep. 125
Manipulating the Universep. 128
Criticality: the riddle of the sandsp. 138
Demons: counting the costp. 142
Two types of futurep. 147
Is technological progress inevitable (or always desirable)?--a fablep. 150
Summaryp. 153
Cosmological limitsp. 155
The last horizonp. 155
Inflation--still crazy after all these yearsp. 164
Chaotic inflationp. 169
Is the Universe open or closed?p. 170
Eternal inflationp. 171
The natural selection of universesp. 174
Topologyp. 176
Did the Universe have a beginning?p. 178
Naked singularities: the final frontierp. 182
Dimensionsp. 184
Symmetry-breakingp. 185
Summaryp. 188
Deep limitsp. 190
Patterns in realityp. 190
Paradoxesp. 195
Consistencyp. 197
Time travel: is the Universe safe for historians?p. 199
Completenessp. 207
Impossible constructionsp. 211
Metaphorical impossibilitiesp. 215
Summaryp. 216
Impossibility and usp. 218
Godel's theorem and physicsp. 218
Does Godel stymie physics?p. 221
Godel, logic, and the human mindp. 230
The problem of free willp. 232
The reaction gamep. 236
Mathematics that comes alivep. 238
A stranger sort of impossibilityp. 239
The Arrow Impossibility Theoremp. 242
Summaryp. 246
Impossibility: taking stockp. 248
Telling what is from what isn'tp. 248
Notesp. 253
Indexp. 275
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780099772118
ISBN-10: 0099772116
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 25th March 1999
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 13.1  x 2.0
Weight (kg): 0.25
Edition Number: 1

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